Hello there everyone! Its time for a, kind of, general musings post. Because right now I have lighting on the brain in a big way! After a lot of penny pinching, I have enough to get myself a nice lighting kit – great! Now I have to decide, what to get? There are many different option, and the prices go all the way across the board. My budget on this venture isn’t exactly huge either. Definite fixed needs – stands! I mean, a nice light doesn’t do you much good if you can’t mount it. Decent stands that can hold the weight, $70 x 2. Fixed need check. Now the fun begins. The light itself. After lots of looking around, I feel that the Alien Bee 800 is my best choice for a good, sturdy, reliable strobe with modeling lamp. While I’d love to get the 1600′s (double the power of the 800), an extra $90 x2 means I can do less with light modifiers in the here and now. From what I have seen, the 800 has enough power to get the job done, at a very reasonable cost ($280 a piece, thats the same price as a canon 430exii speedlight flash, and the power difference between the 2 is pretty big (Like, I’d need up to 4 of the high end speedlights to equal the power of one alien bee!) Other differences – recycle time. A speedlight will take 3-5 seconds to charge between firings and are also dependent on using 4 AA batteries. You can squeeze out quite a few shots on a set of 4 AA”S, but, as you get to about half power on the batteries the recycle time goes up. I’ve learned to do certain things on a shoots to account for the recycle time – check the image for framing, ask the client a few questions, anything to remove the awkward silence that comes when I know i can’t press click on the shutter. It would be very nice to not have to do that, especially cause I know of many times where my eye is pressed to the viewfinder waiting and I see that perfect smile, 2 seconds later its gone. Having the quicker recycle time could be the difference between getting a good shot and a great shot (or in best case, that amazing shot!)
Now the real fun begins – light Modifiers! There are so many to choose from, and all of them can do some pretty neat things. I have only worked with 2 modifiers thus far (almost 3 in a way) – umbrella’s and softboxes. With most umbrellas you have the option of using them as a shoot through or reflector (some are made solely as reflectors). I already have 2 umbrellas and that is the system I have the most experience using. And it should be noted that the difference in some of these modifiers is subtle. Unmodified light tends to be harsh, which is not flattering to the subject. Here’s one of the better video tutorials I found out there
I really enjoy the way this guy lays it all out, plus, he just seems like one of those guys that would be cool to hang out with for a day!
If you watched that video, you may wonder why I’d want to use anything other than a softbox! They are quite cool and very useful, and yeah, on my first experience using them I did kind of fall in love with the how smooth the light was, and how pleasant the shadows were. Here’s an example:
If you watched the video, you can see very directly how the shadow on the wall is very nice, no harsh lines. This shoot was done on borrowed lights and we didn’t alter the power settings, and yeah I do regret that – I was just way too into playing around with different placements of the lights and different shooting angles on the subject. So yeah, why would I want anything other than a softbox?
My work is mostly on location, which means I can’t just use any modifier – yes, if its a nice and calm day with no wind, I could use anything. But how often does mother nature cooperate with us? A reflector/shoot through umbrella for instance – they aren’t that much different from the kind of umbrella you may use while out in the rain. What happens when the wind catches it? I have had to ditch the modifier plan several times because of wind, even a light breeze with an umbrella and your lightstand is taking a ride! A softbox doesn’t catch the wind as much as an umbrella, but they are quite large and may require a weight on the lightstand to use. Someday I will have things like an assistant to help me carry stuff from location to location, but for now I am a one man work horse – so I have to be conscious of how much I plan to have on hand. Too much and half the shoot is spent running back to the car. So, in considering how to build my kit, I opted to go for the a little of everything approach. 1 softbox, and 1 beauty dish! This is my starter setup, so if i find that the softbox can indeed work in more situations than I am assuming, I can always grab a second, and the same goes for the dish too. I have never used a beauty dish, but, from the recommendations I have gotten on it, and the video tutorials I think the dish and me will become fast friends!
Other fun stuff – I decided to grab a set of honeycomb grids too. These little modifiers have the effect of narrowing the beam of light. I can think of many uses for these, and I have seen them in action too. They are quite neat!
I am so anxious for Tuesday to come! Can’t wait to put these new lights to the test!